Saturday, February 23, 2019

Making Change

Counting sheep
It has been 6 days since I deactivated my Facebook account. It does feel a little odd, I get these urges to post something and then remember that I can't. And I am out of the loop as far as what various Facebook friends are up to, but it doesn't feel like a huge loss. It's a little loss, one I can live with.

I read that someone conducted a major study in which half the subjects continued to use Facebook as usual and the other half were cut off from it. The end result was that the people who had no access to Facebook reported more well being and more free time than those who continued as usual. I can attest that I spend less time on the internet, I don't know about the well being. Yet.

I also decided to look into cognitive behaviour therapy for insomnia (CBT-I). Guess what, there's an app for that. I borrowed or downloaded a few books about insomnia and found one that I especially liked, Overcoming Insomnia and Sleep Problems, by Dr. Colin Espie. He walks you through the process with lots of explanations and suggestions. 

At the core of CBT-I is "sleep restriction": first determining how much sleep you are actually getting by keeping a sleep diary, and then restricting the amount of time you spend in bed to that amount of time. So, if you usually spend 8 hours in bed but are only sleeping for 5 hours, then you start by only spending 5 hours in bed. The idea is that you gradually increase the time you spend in bed as your "sleep efficiency" (time spent sleeping/time spent in bed) increases.

I am currently at the stage of keeping a sleep diary (on my phone app) to see how much time I actually sleep. I am also trying some of his suggestions around "sleep hygiene", such as turning on all the lights in the evening to make my living space as bright as possible and setting an ideal waking time and working back from that to determine an ideal bedtime. What I have learned so far is that I actually get more sleep than I think I do, but that doesn't make me feel any less tired. I am not getting as much as I think I need.

Dr. Espie describes "normal" sleep for different age groups, and of course normal sleep for old people is not great: waking up lots of times during the night and not reaching deep stages of sleep as much as one used to. He cautions old people that while CBT-I will probably help, it will not return them to sleep patterns they experienced as young adults. Those days (and nights) are gone!

In keeping my Sleep Diary I set an 8 hour period for sleeping, which means that I am now aiming to go to bed a couple of hours later than I used to. Between staying up later and getting off Facebook, I suddenly have many more hours of free time. But I am also very, very tired, I feel like I can't actually do anything with all that extra time. 

Dr Espie says it will get better. This is the downside of CBT-I: it's a lot of work and not very pleasant initially, but supposedly it is the best long term solution. We shall see.

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Last week I went to a local shop that sells outdoor clothing and asked about winter boots. I wanted boots that were easy to get off and on, I thought zippered boots would be good. But the proprietor said he didn't carry zippered footwear because the zippers rusted and broke too easily. 

I saw a boot I liked the look of but it was very expensive. I went home and thought about that boot for several days and finally decided to bite the bullet and pay the high price. I went back and the boot was gone, but there were a whole lot of winter boots and shoes on sale. The shop was already stocking up on springwear and putting their winterwear on sale. 

I tried on some of the boots that were on sale. A woman who worked there showed me a boot I could try and it was the boot that I'd seen before and thought was gone. It was just the right size and very comfortable, and it was now half-price!

I love my new winter boots. 

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Reservoir eagle
Yesterday I took Hapi for a walk at the Reservoir and then drove downtown for groceries. It was such a nice sunny windless day that I took Hapi for another walk on the dyke. I ran into a man who was also going for a walk in the same direction. We had such an interesting conversation that we walked together for quite a long way, much longer than I intended. 

By the time I got home Hapi and I were both exhausted. That evening I yawned my way through to my new bedtime unable to do anything other than watch more TV. 

But it was a very good day.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Life is a garden

Life is a garden,
not a road.

We enter and exit
through the same gate.

where we go matters less
than what we notice.

~Bokonon, from The Lost Book

Monday, February 18, 2019

Joy, and Obligations

Okay first the Joy. I went skating this morning. The ice was amazing, like glass. And I was almost the first person on it since the last big rain and subsequent freezing. I met the guy who tries to keep it clear on my way in and he said the ice was so good that you really need sharp skates or you won't be able to skate on it. My skates are sharp.

Hapi ventured out but only made it a few feet to a mound of snow that looked like a little island surrounded by a glassy sea. She stayed there the whole time I was skating, she looked like an Eskimo sled dog abandoned on an ice floe. Each time I came around her little ice floe I thought, Just one more time, one more time and then we'll go. It was so hard to stop, I was in skating heaven!

I did finally stop and after changing back into my boots and Lee Valley Icers because the trails are as icy as the ponds, we went for a hike through an apple orchard and then a woodland trail. By the time we got back to the ponds parents and little kids were arriving for skating and hockey because today is a holiday.

The photo above was taken a couple of weeks ago, today it was even better: the sun was shining and the sky a brilliant blue.

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The comments on my last post were pretty unanimous, don't feel guilty and take time for yourself. How exactly one does that is of course for me to figure out. After venting about the problem, I then turned it around from what I didn't want to do to what I did want to do. I had a list of things I wanted to spend more time on. That list made me feel better, I felt justified in staking out time to tackle my list.

I called E to explain about how driving to her place at supper time was too hard, that I would drop by in the daytime if/when I was in town to shop. She seemed to accept that, but three days later there was a message on my phone (I didn't hear it ring) pleading for me to come visit. Ugh!

I called her and said I'd visit soon and she was more than welcome to come visit me whenever she wanted. Next day she got her son to drive her over. It was suppertime of course, but at least I wasn't out driving around in the dark, and her son texted me when they'd be arriving so I was prepared. But OMG, watching her struggle out of the car, up the driveway to my back stairs, then precariously manouevre herself up those three steps with her son behind her with his arms out in case she fell backwards, then across the back deck and through the kitchen to the nearest chair: that was painful!

We had a nice little visit, there was a stack of photos of children and grandchildren on the table by her chair which we went through after she fed her little bag of dog treats to Hapi, and then it was time for them to leave. The painful process of getting from the car to the chair was re-enacted in reverse and they drove away. But not before E tried to nail down the exact time of my visit to her place in the next couple of days. I just said, Soon, soon.

But I don't know which is worse, driving to and from E's place in the dark when I am tired and hungry, or watching her struggle in and out of my place. I feel doomed.

So yesterday I was talking about this situation with a dogwalking friend, F, and he described his own struggle with aging parents. First his father and now his mother. His father died in his 90s and was both blind and demented, his mother is mentally healthy but blind and physically deteriorating, also in her 90s. In comparing notes I realized that my relationship with E is rather like his with his parents, and the sense of obligation is not much different. Although E is only a few years older than me, regarding her as a debilitated and dying parent puts things in perspective. There are obligations I can shake and obligations I can't, much as I would like to.

We commiserated on feelings of obligation and what it did to the rest of our lives, also on our growing desire to withdraw from everyday socializing altogether. I think it's a bit easier for guys to retire from social obligations than for women, there is more of an expectation of women to "take care of people". I can reduce the socializing with J more easily because she is still mobile, has a car of her own, and multiple other friends. But E has none of those things. Plus, her son has been a real lifesaver for me in the past, so I can't just say, Sorry, I don't feel like it. He said to me a few years ago, You are part of our family. Unfortunately I'm afraid that is true.

I spent the last few days tidying and reorganizing my home which was immensely pleasurable. I now have bags of garbage and recycling prepared for disposal and a couple of bags of stuff for Value Village and/or the SPCA. If I take it to VV, they will give me discount coupons to shop there which I could give to E, but E commented that she hates that place and would rather shop at the SPCA. So maybe I'll take my stuff to the SPCA.

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I am going off Facebook. I disabled my account yesterday, if all goes well I will delete it in a month or so. A Facebook friend posted a TEDx video by Tristan Harris on why one should quit social media and most of his reasons made sense to me. There are pros and cons to everything but right now the cons are outweighing the pros for me.

Mr Harris noted that he thought the first couple of weeks after quitting would be the hardest but then one would adjust. We will see. Last night I went through my Facebook friends list and noted three people for whom I have no other contact info. It may be that I will lose those friends, I don't know. Two of them might be able to contact me if they remember the email address I had before Facebook and the third, well, I think I could probably track her down through mutual friends if I had to. All of them currently reside in other countries.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Aspiring Recluse

This is a bit of a whiney post, but …

I have this friend who is a shut-in, health issues and poverty keep her confined to a basement apartment that she shares with her son. They both love my dog. They used to live just up the street from me and several years ago I got into the habit of taking Hapi to visit them and E would feed Hapi dog treats. I usually went around supper time because E's son didn't get home until then and I wasn't up for going there much later than that.

Anyway, they moved to the next town over but wanted me to continue to bring Hapi to visit, at suppertime. Now it involves a 15 minute drive on the highway one way and in the wintertime I am driving after dark and sometimes in bad weather. I have cut back the visits to twice a week rather than almost every day, but E notices and comments that I don't come often enough and do I hate her, has she done something to offend me?

Since the town they live in now is where all the big box stores are I usually try to combine the visit with grocery shopping, but I have to say it is my least favourite time to shop. Last week I didn't go for the whole week, due to bad weather and a mild sinus infection that sapped my motivation.

Another friend's father is 102 years old and just got out of the hospital after a bout of pneumonia. He's OK, but my friend tells me he is fading fast. His 103rd birthday is coming up in March and we think that anticipation of that celebration is his primary motivation in staying alive. I like this man, I have known him for well over 40 years. He's in an extended care home and I'd like to visit him while he's still around, but trying to schedule that around my visits to E is problematic. At first I thought I could do both in the same trip but then realized it was just too much. I still haven't managed to get over to see him yet.

I feel guilty that my ability to be helpful and compassionate is rather limited, I get impatient with it all rather quickly. I just want to be left alone, I don't want to be running around helping people or visiting them because they are needy.

I spent all of last week (when I was staying home not visiting E ostensibly because of the sinus infection) thoroughly enjoying sitting around reading and sorting through my accumulation of useless junk. Being home alone and without responsibilities feels like a holiday in paradise.

I get out with Hapi every morning for about two hours. I often meet other dog walking ladies, which pretty much satisfies any need I have for social interaction. When we get home she expects water and a treat (she doesn't come indoors and her water bowl freezes if I leave it out so I have to bring it in and out all day), then I have to remove all the winter clothing and put it away and then bring in a load of firewood for the day.

By the time all that is taken care of it is lunchtime. If I don't have errands to run or household chores to take care of then the afternoon is free time, although once a week I go to one of book club, needlework group or bridge club. I have my writing group on Friday mornings which means Hapi's walk gets postponed until the afternoon. She howls when I leave her behind on Friday mornings.

Due to increasing insomnia I have great difficulty getting enough sleep. That means I don't want to go to bed late and thus I don't want to go out in the evening. I do go out occasionally, but I pay for it in sleep deficit for a couple of days after.

I'm really having a hard time with this. I am at heart a petty selfish person who does try not to be, but at the moment petty selfishness is winning.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Big Raven

Hapi and I have been sick the past week, I am recovered but I don't know if Hapi is. She looks un-Hapi and she hasn't eaten her dinner in a couple of days. She does eat any treats offered though and still likes her morning walk. No one else can see any sign of her not being her usual self. I'm thinking it is temporary, she's done this before.

As a result of not feeling well I have had no motivation to go outside for anything other than Hapi's walk and I have to say I am enjoying that. I did get out skating once and skiing once at the Reservoir. The skiing was interesting, I got a lot of advice on how to ski as I made my way around the ponds. The advice was coming from older dogwalkers who used to ski back in the day. I think they were envious, they wanted to ski too. Two mentioned that they still had their skis in storage somewhere, maybe they'd dig them out. I'm not a good skier so I don't mind advice. Who knows, maybe I'll have company for another ski.

Meanwhile back at the ranch I've been puttering around. I got it into my head to finish the woodcarving that I started in Toronto years ago, it has been sitting on a high shelf in a closet since I moved to Nova Scotia (in 2010). I got it down and looked at it.

Where are my carving tools? I spent a day ransacking the house looking for them. In the process, found all sorts of other interesting things and decided to throw away half of them. Interesting garbage, not much more than that. Found the tools.

Then I thought I'd rearrange the furniture in the living room so that Hapi's bed is closer to the armchair I usually sit it, I thought she might spend more time indoors if she could be closer to me. Did that. Didn't make a difference, she seemed to think the new location was a bit odd but she could live with it.

Where are the notes I took in the woodcarving class? Another day ransacking, but still haven't found them. I suspect I may have tossed the notebook they were in. After looking at the set of tools I realized that I have forgotten what many of them are for. I may have to find a book on it.

The instructor in the woodcarving class was a woman whose name I forget. Most of the students were older than me and had been in that class for years, they had a nice thing going. It was a 4-hour class, but halfway through they took a leisurely coffee break and sat at a round table together just chewing the fat. We each had our own project that we worked on independently and the instructor was available for advice. When I joined the class (I was only there for two years), she took several half-sessions to get me up and running, and she did that with every new student. We shared the tools, which were high quality carving tools that she provided. She was a professional carver, actually made a living doing it. It was a very relaxed fun time and I very much enjoyed listening to their stories. One carver was the same age as my Dad would have been and he had the same name! Both given and surnames! They were both in World War II, what an amazing coincidence.

My project is a bas relief (that is what she started everyone on, once you completed that you could do anything you wanted) based on an Emily Carr painting called Big Raven. I love almost everything Carr has done, but Big Raven is my favourite. The instructor approved of my choice, she said it was not too detailed and would transfer nicely to a bas relief.

The first step was to photocopy an illustration of that painting from a book and blow it up to the size of the bas relief, about 12"x16".

Then I laid out a slab of plasticine on a piece of masonite and transfered an outline of the photocopy to the plasticine by poking a needle through the photocopy along all the lines. I also traced the same lines onto a transparent film of mylar with a magic marker. I used the mylar outline to draw the picture onto a 2" thick slab of balsa wood.

The plasticine was for a mockup of the final bas relief, I started by carving the plasticine using the same tools I would use on the wood. Plasticine is a little more forgiving than wood if you make a mistake.

I started carving the wood before I completed the plasticine mockup, the idea was to always be a little further ahead on the plasticine than on the wood. Actually there are parts of the final bas relief that are started (some background details and a tree) that don't appear on the mockup. I don't remember why that is the case.

While I was writing this my neighbour phoned and we had a long conversation about this and that. By the time we were finished I had been given three assignments—call my son about his daughter, call another neighbour about a concert ticket, and call a mutual friend to arrange to go out for lunch this week—which I had to complete before getting back to this blog post. All done now. Texted my son, left a message about lunch, and reserved a ticket for Friday.

PS, I looked through old blog posts about my time in the woodcarving class, the instructor's name was Ruth.